Hall of Fame soccer coach Joseph J. Morrone, who led UConn to the NCAA Men’s Soccer National Championship in 1981, died on Sept. 16, just shy of his 80th birthday.
Morrone was an athletic and academic leader within the University community for 45 years, He began his tenure at UConn in July 1969, when he was named head coach of men’s soccer. He remained in that role for 28 years and established a nationally elite collegiate program.
After retiring as head coach following the 1996 season, Morrone launched a distinguished second career at the University, as a tenured associate professor in the Department of Kinesiology where he served as coordinator of the coaching and administration concentration and the Lifetime Sports Program, and serving as chairperson for admissions to the department. He formally retired from his academic post in summer 2014.
Morrone’s impact on the sport of soccer at UConn and around the world has been well documented for more than six decades. Morrone was inducted into the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Hall of Fame in 2002, and was a member of the inaugural class of inductees in the Connecticut Soccer Hall of Fame in 1999. Other prestigious awards bestowed on him included the Bill Jeffrey Award from the Intercollegiate Soccer Association of America in 1991; recognition from Soccer America as one of the “20 most influential persons in soccer” in 1991; lifetime membership in the Connecticut Junior Soccer Association, which he founded in 1972; and a Connecticut Sports Writers’ Alliance “Gold Key” in 1988.
In a crowning achievement to his collegiate coaching career, Morrone was named recipient of the 1995-96 National Soccer Coaches Association of America Honor Award, which is presented annually to the individual whose contributions to the sport have distinguished the recipient to rank among the top names in American soccer circles. It is the highest honor bestowed by the NSCAA.
Morrone retired from the coaching ranks in 1996 as one of only four collegiate head coaches to record at least 400 career victories. His overall 39-year record stands at 422-199-64.
At UConn, Morrone compiled a 28-year overall record of 358-178-53. He led the Huskies to the NCAA Men’s Soccer national semifinals in three consecutive seasons, winning the 1981 NCAA National Championship and earning a berth in the NCAA national semifinals in both 1982 and 1983.
The 1981 UConn Men’s Soccer team reached the pinnacle in collegiate soccer by defeating Alabama A&M 2-1 in overtime to win the National Championship, and finished the year ranked No. 1 in the nation.
Under Morrone’s guidance, UConn earned 16 NCAA Tournament berths, and during his last 19 years at UConn, his teams sported 16 winning seasons and averaged 13.8 wins per season. The Huskies were nationally ranked 16th or better 14 times between 1975 and 1996.
Morrone also led the Huskies to three Big East Conference Tournament Championships, winning titles in 1983, 1984, and 1989. His teams claimed the Sampson Trophy nine times, emblematic of the New England Intercollegiate Soccer League’s top-ranked squad. Honored four times as the New England Coach of the Year (1974, 1976, 1980, 1981), he was also selected as the Big East Coach of the Year in 1985 and 1988.
Morrone began his 39-year collegiate coaching career at Middlebury College in Vemont in 1958. During his 11 years there, he led Middlebury to a New England Championship and two NCAA Tournament appearances.
In addition to his Hall of Fame coaching credentials, Morrone created a congenial atmosphere within the UConn Men’s Soccer program. In the 1970s, he formed the “Friends of Soccer” organization, which over the years raised more than $2 million in support of the soccer program. Its members also helped build the UConn soccer facility in Storrs, which was named the Joseph J. Morrone Stadium in 1997, following the completion of his highly successful head coaching career.
Morrone emphasized the importance of academics with athletics, and saw nearly 96 percent of his UConn student-athletes earn degrees. In addition, 25 of his players earned All-America status, and 30 went on to play soccer professionally.
Born October 20, 1935, Morrone was a 1958 graduate of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, where he was selected as that school’s Outstanding Senior Athlete after starring in soccer, ice hockey, and lacrosse. In soccer, he was an All-New England selection, MVP, and team captain. He earned a master’s degree from Worcester State College in 1963. He also served in the United States National Guard, and will be buried with military honors.
Morrone was predeceased by his wife Elizabeth Ann “Betty” Morrone. He is survived by a daughter and two sons and their families. All three of his children were outstanding soccer student-athletes at UConn, each earning All-American status during their respective college careers.
Funeral arrangements are pending.